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Fall is a good time to learn about falls prevention

Line drawing of fractured hip
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Falling is a normal part of aging.  Elderly fallers may have many risk factors that interact to produce instability such as interaction of medicines, hip weakness, or neuropathy.  We cannot predict who will fall, but we can identify falls risks and therefore the people who are at a greater risk for falling.

Falls are the leading cause of injury in older adults and account for over 50% of all accidental deaths in the elderly.  30-50% of the population 65 and over experience falls.  Half of those who fall do so repeatedly.  5 % of falls lead to fracture causing more than 200,000 hip fractures annually.  One in ten of these patients die of complications and one in four survivors never regain their normal mobility.  Falls contribute to 40% of nursing home admissions.

Risk factors include age: over 60, gender: females fall more than males, body mass: low body mass and weight shows and increased falls risk, history of falls, balance and gait impairments, poor nutrition, decreased physical activity, urinary urgency, impaired vision, decreased muscle strength and/or range of motion, and more than 4 medications.  Environmental risk factors include poor lighting, obstacles in the pathway, floor surfaces, high steps or thresholds without railings, or high cabinets.  Living alone or fear of falling are also risk factors.

In 2007 Medicare partnered with the American Physical Therapy Association to launch a Falls Risk Reduction in Older Adults program.  Physical Therapists are uniquely qualified to assess the falls risk in older adults.  The guidelines for such assessments were for any adult over 65 who has fallen once with an injury or twice without an injury.  Physical Therapists are easily able to administer a gait evaluation and test hip muscle strength as well as ankle movement.  We are able to help our patients regain their strength and balance as well as teach them simple exercises for continued strengthening at home.  Please contact your favorite PT today to get a falls screening if you have fallen in the past 6 months.

Mary Boyd, MS, PT is the owner of Mountain View Physical Therapy and can be reached for questions at 290-5575 or on the web at  She is a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council.

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